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The Relationship Between Delegation and Incentives Across Occupations: Evidence and Theory

  • DeVaro, Jed
  • Prasad, Suraj

A large literature, both theoretical and empirical, suggests that delegation of authority and incentives should have a positive relationship. Using data from a large cross section of British establishments, we show that the positive relationship between incentives and delegation that has been consistently documented in the empirical literature masks a stark difference between job types. We classify jobs into two categories: complex jobs include professional, technical and scientific occupations and simple jobs consist of all other occupations with a lower-level code in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. We find that for simple jobs, the relationship between delegation and incentives is positive as has been found in the previous literature, whereas for complex jobs it is negative. To explain this negative relationship for complex jobs, we develop a model where tasks have a risk-return tradeoff and where a single performance measure has to induce both task selection and effort. We find that if tasks vary sufficiently by risk and return and if effort is noisy to measure, then delegation and incentives have a negative relationship.

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Paper provided by University of Sydney, School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2013-05.

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Date of creation: Mar 2013
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Handle: RePEc:syd:wpaper:2123/9015
Contact details of provider: Postal: Sydney, NSW 2006
Phone: 61 +2 9351 5055
Fax: 61 +2 9351 4341
Web page: http://sydney.edu.au/arts/economics
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  1. Ricardo Alonso & Niko Matouschek, 2008. "Optimal Delegation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 259-293.
  2. Raghuram Rajan & Henri Servaes & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "The Cost of Diversity: The Diversification Discount and Inefficient Investment," NBER Working Papers 6368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
  4. Canice Prendergast, 2002. "The Tenuous Trade-off between Risk and Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 1071-1102, October.
  5. Thomas Hellmann & Veikko Thiele, 2011. "Incentives and Innovation: A Multitasking Approach," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 78-128, February.
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  7. Van den Steen, Eric, 2005. "Too Motivated?," Working papers 18180, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  8. Jed Devaro & Fidan Ana Kurtulus, 2011. "An Empirical Analysis of Risk, Incentives and The Delegation of Worker Authority," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2011-13, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  9. Neal, Derek, 1995. "Industry-Specific Human Capital: Evidence from Displaced Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(4), pages 653-77, October.
  10. OWAN Hideo & NAGAOKA Sadao, 2011. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations of Inventors," Discussion papers 11022, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
  11. Bester, Helmut & Krähmer, Daniel, 2006. "Delegation and incentives," Discussion Papers 2007/1, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  12. Massimo G. Colombo & Marco Delmastro, 2004. "Delegation of Authority In Business Organizations: An Empirical Test," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 53-80, 03.
  13. Raith, Michael, 2004. "Specific Knowledge and Performance Measurement," CEPR Discussion Papers 4262, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Hirshleifer, David & Suh, Yoon, 1992. "Risk, managerial effort, and project choice," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 308-345, September.
  15. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
  16. Dilip Mookherjee, 2005. "Decentralization, Hierarchies and Incentives: A Mechanism Design Perspective," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2005-034, Boston University - Department of Economics, revised Sep 2005.
  17. Avery, Christopher & Chevalier, Judith A & Schaefer, Scott, 1998. "Why Do Managers Undertake Acquisitions? An Analysis of Internal and External Rewards for Acquisitiveness," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(1), pages 24-43, April.
  18. Ederer, Florian & Manso, Gustavo, 2009. "Is Pay-For-Performance Detrimental to Innovation?," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt03t787q9, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  19. Gustavo Manso, 2011. "Motivating Innovation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(5), pages 1823-1860, October.
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